The NCBTMB: Time to Back up and Punt

This past weekend, ABMP convened the 14th annual School Issues Forum in Alexandria, VA. I was teaching at the NC Chapter of AMTA‘s Spring Conference and couldn’t attend, and apparently, I missed a little firestorm by not being there.

Neal Delaporta, Chairman of the Board of the NCBTMB, gave a presentation on the progress of the Advanced Certification Exam, that for the past 48 hours has caused my inbox to be flooded with criticisms of the path that was taking. The resignation of Task Force member Rosemarie Rotenberger was also passed along to me by an anonymous source.  The BOD of the NCBTMB, according to Rotenberger, chose to eliminate the CE requirement from the eligibility criteria of sitting for the new ACE; she offered that as the reason for her resignation, stating that the action had been taken “against the strong and repeated recommendation of the Task Force.”

One industry leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated “I am disgusted to learn that he (Delaporta) was touting NCB’s mission to define and advance the highest standards in the profession while knowing full well that the CE requirement–one of the only meaningful criteria to qualify a practitioner for any kind of post-graduate credential–had already been removed by his BOD.” A number of others who were present at the meeting also gave me an earful about the ACE; the general attitude was that by doing away with any CE requirements that the NCB was removing any shred of credibility from the exam.

As I believe in going straight to the source, I contacted the NCB to give them a chance to respond. Without divulging any names I shared some of the criticisms that were piling up, and here is part of the response I received from Paul Lindamood, CEO of the NCBTMB (shortened for space considerations):

“….Based on feedback from Task Force members, it has become clear that the rationale supported by the Board is not entirely in alignment with the recommendations of the Task Force. Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Board has determined that further communication and deliberation regarding one element of the criteria, specifically the continued education requirement, are needed to achieve consensus and move forward to the next phase of the project. A meeting will be convened between the Board and Task Force Sub-Committee members in order to better define the quantifiable threshold for the CE requirement, one that everyone in aggregate can embrace….When one considers that the framing of the ACE is intended to measure critical thinking skills and ability allowing massage therapists to function in more complex situations requiring the ability to respond and adapt massage treatment plans based on expected outcomes, it is unconscionable that CE would not play an appropriate role….”

In other words, they’re going to back up and punt. I’m glad to hear it. The pesky thing about any task force is that they’re not worth a hill of beans if you don’t take their advice. They were put in that position because of their experience and expertise. The fact that the Board of Directors failed to follow their advice speaks volumes.

I’d like to know exactly where to lay the blame, but short of polling the Board members,  who probably wouldn’t tell me anyway, I can’t figure that one out. As someone who is on a state board myself, I can tell you that it’s pretty rare for us all to be in agreement. We disagree all the time, and we argue until a majority reaches a consensus. If a majority of the NCB’s BOD reached a consensus that continuing education is not important, as they obviously did, I’d like to know what they were thinking.

My own thought is that a person who graduated from a 1000-hour program, or longer, might be ready to step up and take the advanced exam without having had any CE, but that is not the standard in this country. Very few of our states require that much education in order to get a massage license, and our neighbors in some of the Canadian provinces can even laugh at that. We need to raise the standards, but that’s another blog. And regardless of entry-level education, critical thinking is developed by the commitment to continue one’s education, as well as by gaining practical experience.

When the leadership of an organization fails to act in a responsible manner, the other Board members need to let it be known loud and clear that they dissent. I certainly do. I’d no more go along with the Chair just because he’s the Chair than I would cut off my nose to spite my face. You can ask him. I’ll be the last one hollering. I’m not going to be anybody’s blind sheep.

I am very relieved to hear that the BOD of the NCB has decided to cave to the Task Force recommendations, and to the popular demand of the leaders of this profession, that CE requirements be reconsidered as a part of the criteria for sitting for the new exam. I urge the Board of Directors, and Neal Delaporta in particular, to pay attention to the recommendations made by the people you asked to do this job! To do otherwise is irresponsible on your part at best, and despotic at worst. We don’t need any more egomaniacs running the National Certification Board, we’ve already had one, thank you, and we didn’t like her, either.

I’ve tried to be more positive in my reporting about the NCB in the past few months, because I have in fact seen an improvement in service there, and I know that at least some of the people there are people who genuinely do care and want to make a positive difference.

I suggest to Mr. Delaporta and the rest of the present Board of Directors that you were on a sinking ship, that has bobbed to the surface and shown some good signs of righting itself, and it isn’t on anybody’s head but yours if you cause it to go down again. This is a reality check, and you need to realize it. For the sake of the NCB, listen to the Task Force members, whose help you asked for, and do as they suggest. Put the budget on the back burner, and leave your ego at the door.  You just remember that it takes a majority vote and vote for the CE requirement. If you want the Advanced Certification Exam to be a hallmark of excellence that it ought to be, and not an industry joke, then do the right thing.

Laura Allen

Massage Legislation: Who’s Helping Us?

Some of us in the rank and file of massage therapy are beginning to feel like we’re fighting a war, with all the unfavorable regulation that is coming down the pike here lately.

In California, AB 1822 is threatening to undo all the work that’s been accomplished there in the past year or so. In Florida, HB 633 is singling massage therapists out in the interest of preventing “human trafficking.”  Although it’s no surprise that Florida has a lot of illegal immigrants, and I can understand requiring any employer to show proof that employees are legal, I don’t see the need to lump “lewdness, assignation, and prostitution” in the same sentence as “massage”. Contractors and farmers use a lot of immigrant labor. Are they being held accountable for the same thing?

When legislation is afoot that stands to crush our rights, who is helping us?

Some massage therapists have the mistaken idea that our state boards are supposed to exist for the benefit of practitioners, but that’s not true. Public boards exist to safeguard the public, and that doesn’t include us. They can’t lobby for therapist rights.

AMTA and ABMP both have government relations representatives, as does the FSMTB and the NCBTMB. I’m acquainted with most of those folks, and they are all good people who want the best for the profession. However, we can hardly expect one or two association representatives to be everywhere at once, to contact every legislator, or to stop something detrimental to us in its tracks.

The fact is, if we don’t help ourselves, we’re not going to get the respect we deserve as professional massage therapists. If the AMTA, ABMP, FSMTB, and NCBTMB send all their GR representatives to Florida to talk to the legislators, that’s a handful of people who will all fit comfortably at my dinner table. They can stand there and say “I represent X number of massage therapists.” I sincerely appreciate their efforts, and sometimes it works, but it just can’t be counted on to have that much impact.

On the other hand, if the 80,000 + therapists in Florida would contact their legislators, that’s enough people to get their attention.  If even a tenth of the therapists in California showed up at a legislative session, that would be a loud voice.

Massage legislation, like any other legislation in America, is often hidden inside some pork-barrel bill that doesn’t have squat to do with massage. If the Federation, AMTA and ABMP didn’t keep on top of legislative actions and disperse that information, most of it would probably go unnoticed until it was a done deal, except by the small number of us who make it a point to keep up with it. That’s a scary thought.

I’m at a loss on what to do. We can’t institute a mandatory draft, to institute interest in the politics of the profession. If we could, I would. We might have come a long way, but in the year 2010, to still have language about prostitution mentioned in the same breath with massage therapy in regulatory bills is a serious sign of how far we still have to go.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

A New Day, A New Blog

Welcome to my new blog site! For the past couple of years, I’ve been blogging about the politics of massage on the Massage Magazine website. More recently, I’ve also been contributing to the WIBB (Women in Bodywork Business) blog on the Massage Today website. I finally decided it’s time to put up my own blog, on my own site.

I’m always opinionated, and sometimes controversial. I like to keep up with what’s going on in the political arena of massage, report that, and offer my opinions on it. The issue with that in the past has been that the magazines that host my other blogs accept advertising from the entities I sometimes report on, and it makes them a little uncomfortable when I slam a big advertiser. Of course, the big advertiser doesn’t like it, either.

Having my own blog site will take care of that problem. Now I can be just as offensive as I dang well please, and the magazines can relax, secure in the knowledge that I am not upsetting their advertisers on their playground. And I won’t worry about being censored or being asked to tone down my opinion to make an advertiser happy.

I support freedom of speech, and I don’t mind when people disagree with my opinions. It would be a pretty boring world if we all thought alike. All comments will be welcomed.

There’s also an “About” page here, and a page with my schedule of classes. Thank you for reading my blog!

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen